O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. — Collect for Proper 21
While employed at the Centers for Disease Control, one of the groups I worked with studied the prevention of chronic diseases. Many of the leading causes of death are not from infectious diseases, but rather long-term chronic conditions.
At one point, I remember one scientist lamenting that things were much clearer when the time horizon between prevention of disease and health was shorter. Improving water quality, sanitation, or the availability of vaccines for preventable disease have immediate and clear results. It’s not only gratifying, but also much easier to motivate people to take steps towards greater health when they see the impact.
While we know what helps with chronic conditions like heart disease, it’s harder to see the immediate impact of our actions. I know I should exercise and eat well. I suspect you do as well. It's harder to weigh the immediate pleasure of skipping that workout to lounge on the couch, or having just one more bite of that tasty dessert, against my health status years from now. Small acts of discipline have huge impact, but it’s hard to measure the absence of disease when the time horizon is not immediate.
My experience in the spiritual life is very similar. The incremental changes we see growing in trust or faith are more easily measured in years than days. And yet, the simple daily practices of prayer, participating in corporate worship, studying the Bible, and giving as a spiritual practice are the building blocks of that long-term spiritual transformation. When we are “running to obtain” God’s promises as this week’s collect states, it is much better to think of this as a marathon and not a sprint.
The invitation to participate in the spiritual health inventory (link below) is an opportunity to acknowledge individually and as a community that we are on a journey. We are growing in our discipleship and orienting ourselves towards meaning and purpose for our church and the world.
There are many communities in which we can participate, and my hope is that St. Mark’s is one of the foundational places you come for transformation. We receive and give here in small and large ways. In that process we invite growth which spills over into all the communities in which we participate. We learn to look for God’s presence and share that with one another, so we are better attuned to see it in all places.